The Best Kind of Christmas Shopping

posted in: Day In The Life, Family 9
Child’s drawing, 2012. Image: Wikipedia.


We did it, gang.

My last class for the fall term was today. I am officially one semester away from completing my Master of Fine Arts in Writing (MFAW) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC.) I feel really good. I know the ol’ PG takes a hit sometimes, with the coursework, but you know and I know: I’m never far. I won’t ever be far away.

When I left the newspaper office this afternoon and I realized the term really was actually complete, I thought, “Hey, I should celebrate.” I considered going for some Netflix, maybe picking up a fancy bottle of wine (by which I mean a $20-bottle of wine.) And if Netflix n’ drinkin alone strikes you as being kind of a sad way to celebrate something, you must understand that I am very, very tired.

But I didn’t get the bottle of wine (too many calories) and I won’t poke around on Netflix, either (too many choices.) The good news is that I found a better way to celebrate on the way home: I bought a Christmas present for a kid!

My friends S. and Z. have the most incredible daughter. Let’s call her Squirt. Squirt is around five, though I’m terrible at gauging/remembering the ages of anyone over about one week. What I do know about the child is that she is almost too smart and adorable to be believed. The kid bats her eyes and twirls around and you’re toast, just totally in love with her and her Squirt Way. But then she opens her mouth to say something genius and you think, “Please, please Lord, let this person use her powers for good.” Because she’s scary advanced, human-wise.

For example, about a year-and-a-half ago, I was hanging out at the pool with Squirt and her mom and Squirt fell and got a bad scrape on her knee. Of course, Squirt was really, really upset and crying; it hurt! We were all doing the boo-boo kiss thing and trying to make her feel better, but it was a tough one. At one point, between sobs, Squirt wailed to us, “I’m n-not d-doing very well … !”

I‘m not doing very well??

The kid was three. This is what I’m talking about.

Anyway, Squirt loves to make art. The last time I saw her and her, we made art together, and that was a blast. Drawing and coloring with this kid made me remember just how very, very much I loved “doing art” when I was wee. Oh, man. It’s really in the blood, you know, the art stuff. Some kids are just art kids. As Squirt and I scribbled together that day, I made a mental note that when Christmastime came, I was gonna blow that kid’s mind with a big haul of art supplies from Chicago.

So there I am, headed away from the office, trying to figure out how to mark this not-insubstantial milestone in my grad school existence, when it hit me: Go to Dick Blick! Of course! I could go into Dick Blick and buy Squirt her art supplies!

And indeed, I went into the art superstore there on State Street and knew it was just right. I looked over papers, markers, glitters. I picked up pens, cardstock, poster paper. My eyes loved the colors everywhere; I let the smell of canvas and glue and paint carry me away.

That kid is gonna freak out. I got her some good stuff, and I’m not even sure I’m done, yet. At the heart, I suppose I did retail therapy tonight, except I got the therapy and Squirt’s gettin’ the retail.

Christmas is working!

Office Supplies Will Save Us All.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 0
Office supply store, Poland. Photo: Wikipedia
Office supply store, Poland. Photo: Wikipedia

I’m under the weather. I’m body-achy, I’ve got heavy-head-on-necky, and my eyeballs are dry. I’m serious, they’re dry. I continually require drops. What can it mean?

Perhaps the two-hour walk I took yesterday evening pushed me into this. The night was colder than I anticipated. I had been out earlier and it wasn’t too bad, but the temperature had dropped. Not realizing this, I made a suboptimal coat decision.

I needed to walk. I had no destination, just the desire to get out, move my legs. Sometimes I work all day and realize at 7pm that I haven’t gone anywhere but from my desk to the kitchen to the couch and back. This doesn’t bother me, usually. But a brutal nightmare woke me from my power nap that afternoon and the hours following that were just weird. I felt weird, I felt sad. A walk seemed the thing to do, so I grabbed my wallet and my favorite tote bag and hit Wabash Avenue.

Nietzsche said that the best thoughts are conceived while walking. I think he was right on that one; the rhythm of your feet helps sort things out up top. I was sorting out but not liking what piles were forming and actually going deeper into my funk…when the glowing lights of a Staples store shone in the distance and I immediately felt one-thousand times better.

I love office supplies. I squeal when I unscrew a fresh bottle of Wite-Out. I can’t talk about PaperMate felt-tip pens or I’ll need a hanky. The small, sturdy boxes with staples inside. Paperclips! Folders of all colors and styles: hanging, tabbed, pocket, no-pocket, etc. Tabs. All the tabs. Stickers. My mother says that if you love office supplies, you’ll love making quilts. I think the converse is true, as well: if you make quilts, you probably love office supplies. My little sister and I used to play “School” up in the toy room on the farm. I thought about that as I floated through the aisles last night. This is the difference between kids and adults. We do not play “Work” after we get home.

As a rule, I don’t shop for entertainment. When I go into a store, I’m there for a reason, for an errand. But last night, I needed to go up and down the aisles, touch office supplies, and select some to put into my handbasket. An hour before closing, it was pretty much just me and the two employees in the store and they couldn’t have cared less about me. I had the place to myself. I studied paper. I deliberated over the thin highlighters or the thick ones. I considered purchasing a slim spiral folder with the bend-back cover that I don’t need but might need soon. I put that back, barely.

It helped. Sometimes I resist taking a walk because taking a walk for no reason, by myself, can seem sort of pathetic. But that’s silly. Walking is a noble thing to do. Even if the chill I got made me sickly, the walk snapped me out of myself, which is what I needed. It snapped me out of myself and into Staples and here I am.